Sunday, June 28, 2009

Not much to say; this and that

It’s hot.

DSC_0079aI am working on trying to propagate “Grandma’s Rose”.  When we went back to Arkansas for the last time, to get the remainder of Mother and Dad’s stuff, at the last second I went out in the back and dug up “Grandma’s Rose”; supposedly our great-great grandmother had the “original” (no telling where she got it) rose.  Mother had “liberated” it from a relative, and had it for like 30 years.  I dug it up and brought it to Houston, where it’s graced the front of my house and favoured me with blooms (I cut some of the best ones and some of my camellias and took them to Mom, don’t know whether she enjoyed them or not but Dad did).

In any event, this big cane got too top-heavy with blooms and leaves and just fell off.  I have cut it into 6” sections, now to plant them and see if I can root them.  I’d like to have more than one of this bush in case anything happens to the main plant.

Otherwise, all I’ve done this last week is go to work and come home, trying to stay out of the heat.  The heat is insane, it works on your brane (see?). 


Enjoyed a quick internet wallow on the subject of “Mid-Century Modern”, one of my favourite things.  There are several notable mcm houses here in Houston; I wish I had one of them.  Really I don’t, because they’re usually terrible to maintain, terrible to heat and a/c, etc.  But, I sure love the way they look.  Makes you want to break into a chorus of “Meet George Jetson…”.

Here’s a slideshow on Flickr that I really liked; I’ll start it on one of my favourites.  Go “right” through the pics.  Of course, any style is great if you can afford some of the finest examples; if you have to have a 1500 square foot “mass produced” version, it’s not going to be great no matter how you slice it.  I still would love to live in one of these wonderful houses.  Link here.  Look at Braeswood, and 319 Westminster.  Those who know me might be surprised to know this is my very favourite architectural style.  I’d gladly abandon all my knicknacks for something like these.


Eggs Benedict are just one of my favourite things.  Don’t have them very often, too much work vs.. fried/scrambled, but yesterday I got all energetic (for me) and whipped them up from scratch.  Did it again today to use up all the ingredients (the English muffins are not on my diet).  I’ve used the same old recipe forever for Hollandaise; I’m sure there are better out there but I like this one just fine.  It’s from my 1951 edition of The Joy of Cooking.   Still great after all these years.


Trifecta on our generation this weekend. I’m second cohort of the Baby Boomers; the first group graduated in the 60’s and had their classics.  We had fewer “classics”, but there were several that were all ours, and we lost two of them in two days; the trifecta came in with the loss of another of our parents’ icons---they’re just going away fast.

I was never Michael Jackson’s biggest fan, but you’d have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to recognize his incredible talent.  I know he had issues (!) later in life, but somehow I don’t think of that now; I’m just remembering “Thriller”.  He was the music icon of our generation.

I had the poster of Farrah Fawcett on my dorm room wall.  It’s supposed to be one of the biggest-selling pinups of all time; I can tell you this much:  there were 600 guys at Penland Hall in the fall of 1975, and each one of us had at least one copy, if not several.  She was one of the sex symbols of our generation (the other was Chris Evert).  You other generations can sneer all you want, but you’ve got yours.  She was ours.  I still think she was gorgeous. 

Ed McMahon was everybody’s favourite sidekick.  We grew up watching him on the Tonight Show (sneaking around to watch it on a 13” black and white Sony with rabbit ears, because I was supposed to be in bed.  I was really proud of that Sony; I bought it myself at a garage sale and the parents had a debate amongst themselves about whether I should be allowed to keep it; they decided it was my funeral if I couldn’t get up to go to school).  Anyway, the GI generation is fading fast.  Sigh.

Between these three deaths and the carrying on in Iran and Korea---and the heat---what an exhausting week.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


“’s hot in here.  ‘s damn hot.  Too damn Hot.”---spoof interview with Abner V. McCall, President of Baylor University, on KWBU ca. 1975.

“Remember, son, Hell and Houston both begin with a ‘H’”---Original settler of Harrisburg, writing to his son back East.

While the rest of the country enjoys early spring conditions, tornadoes, storms, blizzards, and other signs of the apocalypse, we here in south Texas appear to have already been thrown into the pit with Lucifer.

It may be 95 at that nice grassy field out at the airport (near the nice cooling waters of the swamp), but in West Houston, my (carefully placed in the shade) thermometers are saying it’s 100 degrees at 7:00 pm.  My air conditioner (a nearly-new, highly efficient Goodman, made with Texas Pride in Houston by Houstonians) has been running continuously since I got home at 11:00 am (I was in Dallas yesterday and drove in this morning; I had the a/c in my car on “Lo-Lo-Lo-Recirc-Max Fan” all the way). I went to the Galleria earlier this afternoon; the car thermo showed “104”.

My yard is crispy; I’m going to water after the sun goes down at 9.  It’s also overgrown and going to seed; you don’t dare cut it short, because the moisture will evaporate faster.  My pine tree is shedding needles so fast it looks like a blizzard of brown.  Fortunately, my knockout roses (named Tschep, Eibner, and Bigham; there are those reading this who will understand that reference…) seem to LOVE the heat, growing and blooming their Razorback Red blossoms profusely.  Everything else is looking parched, despite all the –expensive- water I’m pouring daily.

I have the obligatory soaker hoses around my foundation, watering every night for half an hour.  Yep, here in good ol Tejas, we water our houses.  The soil is clay; if you don’t water, it pulls away from the foundation, leading the foundation to shift, then crack.  A cracked slab = major costly repair and a negative on selling your house.  Our houses “float” on the ground.  If you keep the soil moist around the foundation, and the foundation was poured correctly, you will –most likely- avoid a foundation repair company’s visit, work, and bill.  Oh, and of course there’s the fact that, when they do your repair, they have to tear up the floors inside to do it.  You then get all-new flooring, too….

I’ll worry about the Reliant bill and the City of Houston water bill later….

Speaking of the water department, our main is broken; water is bubbling up through the cracks in the street (two houses down from mine) and running into the storm drains.  All that lovely H20 down the drain when it could be going on my yard.  My neighbour across the street (a petroleum engineer) has rigged a sump pump to pump the water directly to his sprinkler.  $97.  I would do it, but they’ll come fix the main as soon as I do and it would be my luck that the store wouldn’t take the pump back. 

It’s been over 95 degrees now for 14 consecutive days, with no rain in the forecast and no relief in sight.  NOAA reports that the temps will go to triple digits (air temp at the aforementioned nice grassy field) next week, with heat indices well over 110.  Aforementioned City of Houston Water Department assures us that there is plenty of water in Lake Houston and Lake Conroe, but I can’t imagine they’ll let us water our yards too much longer if this drought continues.

The setting of sprinklers does provide certain advantages.  When it’s 100 degrees, a little sprinkle on YOU is a nice thing.

I love my office; I share air conditioning with the server room.  You can hang meat in there.  I love it.

Sigh.  I don’t know if it’s really hotter, or if it’s just the fact that I’m older, but the heat this year seems much worse.

But, the burgers have just come off the grill.  The lettuce is crisp and cool; the tomatoes, fresh off the vine, are “real”, juicy and cool and delicious, crusted with salt.  The sweet iced tea with its sprig of crushed mint is causing the glass to sweat.  There’s ice cream for dessert.

Y’all come on, now, wash up.  Supper’s ready.

Sunday, June 7, 2009



CONGRATULATIONS TO THE FIGHTING ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS, who punched their ticket (don’t you love clich├ęs?  I do…) to Omaha yesterday by sweeping Free Shoes U (Florida State University) in the Tallahassee Super-Regional, following their sweep of Blow U (Oklahoma University) in the Norman Regional last week (we beat Oklahoma and Florida State, all games, at their places, for the baseball-impaired).  (And for those who might be baseball-impaired, you have my pity…;-)

2009 College World Series Interactive Bracket here.

Baseball is one of the greatest sports ever devised by man.  Called for over a century the “National Pastime”, it is quirky, weird, byzantine (explain the infield fly rule in 300 words or less; GO).  It has ebbs and flows, currents and eddies.  It’s a boys’ game played by men (and, in variations, by women).  George Carlin’s HILARIOUS, consummate summary of the differences between baseball and football can be found here.  Here in America, we play the WORLD SERIES, even though we invite nobody but ourselves….

If you want to reduce many American adult males to tears, just show them “Field of Dreams”.  There have been so many odes, poems, epics, photo essays, and other elegiac efforts written and published about baseball that I will forgo that pleasure and effort in this piece.  Suffice it to say, I’m as addicted as many, though not as addicted as some (who led the National League in hitting in 1967?  What was Tom Seaver’s ERA?  How many Cy Young awards did he have?  In what year was he inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame?  Name the teams on which Henry Aaron played, and what was his nickname?  Trust me, there are guys who can instantly spout the answers.  (Roberto Clemente, 2.86, 3, 1992.

hank_aaron Ok, so I threw the question about Hammerin’ Hank in there because he is the baseball hero who hooked me on the game.  He played for the Indianapolis Clowns of the old Negro League, then a brief stint in the minors, then the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves until the last two years, when he played for the Milwaukee Brewers.  He hit 755 Home Runs, a record which stood until Barry Bonds –spit- passed him in 2007.)


2004 CWS-29 I had the wonderful experience of attending the College World Series in 2004.  Lucy went, too!  She was still a puppy, and it was her first Razorback road trip. 

It was 105 degrees when we left Ft. Smith, Arkansas.  I had a brand new Dodge Grand Caravan (quick aside on me and minivans; I always sneered, as most do, at people who drove “Mommyvans”.  I did that right up until a friend of mine drove us from Malvern to Knoxville in his.  We went on a football/golf trip; drove to Knoxvegas, played golf, got beat in football, then golfed our way from Knoxville to Birmingham, where we played the Robert Trent Jones courses all week, then beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa, as usual.  It is barely possible that alcoholic beverages and lots of food were consumed at such places as Buddy’s Barbecue in Knoxville and the incomparable Dreamland in Tuscaloosa.  Then we went home.  By the time I got home, I was in love with the van---smooth like a car, good gas mileage, good handling, and you can take 2 grown men, 4 medium-large dogs, 2 sets of golf clubs, assorted tailgating/camping paraphernalia, and luggage for a week, without even worrying about whether you can see out or not.  I determined that I would have one, and Big Red –my Dodge- was the result.).

So Big Red, Lucy, some friends and I set off for Omaha.  We took shorts and t-shirts with us, because it was summer, right?  Wrong, Nebraska is far enough north that a cold front had come through; we had to go to Wal-Mart to obtain windbreakers and long-sleeved shirts.

We arrived in Omaha and, since the hotels were full and we had our camping equipment, we camped at a KOA with a bunch of other Razorback friends.  It was great!

The CWS itself is something else.  People tailgating, drinking, eating, smoking, belching, and watching baseball.  “It don’t git no better’n ‘is”. 

2004 CWS-3 Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium has been the permanent home for the CWS since 1950; it’s a great venue for baseball, very comfortable, nice surroundings, decent concessions, and a “strip” across the street with all kinds of vendors selling souvenirs, food, drink, and everything else. 

You see a cross-section of America there, but generally it’s a fairly upscale/educated crowd (“slumming”).  Most everybody is not only civil, but like us, most were thrilled to be there.  It’s a great deal when your team gets there, and yes, we were all gloating that we were not like “mere mortals” at home watching it on TeeVee.

I’ll mostly let the pictures speak for themselves, with a few underlying comments.  This year I’ll be a “mere mortal” watching on TeeVee, but it’s an experience I’ll never forget.

2004 CWS Big Red, decked^

2004 CWS-1 Tailgating^

2004 CWS-2

Beef, it’s what’s for dinner^

2004 CWS-3

The scene, as viewed from our tailgate.  “The Strip” is to the right of the stadium, across the street

2004 CWS-4 

We made it!

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2004 CWS-6

2004 CWS-7

2004 CWS-8This IS the national championship!

2004 CWS-9  

2004 CWS-10 

My buddy Les playing catch with his son at the College World Series

2004 CWS-11

Yeah, we know.  We like to eat.

2004 CWS-12

2004 CWS-14

In the immortal words of the immortal Larry Shank, our beloved, late stadium announcer:



2004 CWS-15

2004 CWS-16

I’m not sure there’s any comment to make here.  We didn’t know these guys but it IS pretty hirarious.

2004 CWS-17

2004 CWS-18

Jake Dugger batting.  I got to see him earlier this year (2009) playing AAA ball in Austin; who knows?  Maybe I’ll get to see him hit at Minute Maid Park!

2004 CWS-19

texass u (spit) pitching to us

2004 CWS-20

2004 CWS-21

2004 CWS-22

2004 CWS-23

In the above two pictures, I caught the ball mid-flight from pitcher to batter

2004 CWS-24

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2004 CWS-27

2004 CWS-28

It’s never too early or too late to hate texass u (spit)

2004 CWS-13

2004 College World Series, by MalvernHog

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Greatest Store in the Greatest State, Part II

Joske’s really was the Greatest Store in the Greatest State.  They literally had EVERYTHING---and what they didn’t have, they could probably arrange.  Couture, furniture, a grand full-scale travel agency, a Boot department, Saddle department, and Tack department; the Camellia Room downtown; a Real Estate Agency (featuring Farm and Ranch); you name it, Joske’s had it.

Again, Neiman-Marcus had that reputation among the chi-chi in Dallas, but Joske’s had the reputation in South Texas and South of the Border.

When I worked there, the Mexico customers were something else.  Many folks don’t realize that there are a lot of very wealthy people in Mexico (Mexico City is bigger than New York)---and they frequently come to the US to shop. 

I wound up being manager of the luggage department at Joske’s North Star, and was always amazed at the Mexico customers.  You could tell one of them was coming, they usually had an entourage.  An incredibly aristocratic blonde (think “Evita”), dressed in the latest couture, accompanied by her assistants, would sweep into the luggage department and buy a complete set (all 46 pieces) of Hartmann Belting Leather luggage for her upcoming trip to Europa.  (I was, at one time, the #1 Hartmann Luggage salesperson in the state of Texas, and #4 nationally; I still love Hartmann; if you want the best, that’s it).  My favourite demo was to put a Hartmann 26 inch 2-suiter (we had one that had ink stains on it we had written out of stock) on the floor---and stand on it while I sold the customer on the many fine attributes of Hartmann Luggage.  Sold ‘em every time.

We had a “fine foods” department, featuring exotic food items from around the globe, but especially from Texas and the Southwest.  I’ll never forget, I was standing in the Luggage/Stationery/Gourmet/Candy/Notions/Books/Camera department (1/4 of the main sales floor) one day when one of the salespeople asked me to help a difficult customer.  I enquired of the gentleman, and it seems he had a tin of rattlesnake meat (!) from *1966* (we used gum tags, and they had the date code on them) that he had found in a drawer (this was 1974).  He wished to return it for credit. 

I told him I’d have to ask the manager (knowing what the reaction would be), and, trembling, had “Mister A. B. Jones” paged.

Mr. Jones was the God-Emperor of the main floor.  We were all terrified of him, but we all worshipped the ground he walked on.  A retired Marine Corps General, native of Columbus, Georgia, Mr. Jones was 6’4, clocked in about 300, had a mane of white hair, thick glasses, and walked around with a cigar chomped in his teeth (flagrant violation of every rule in the book).  He was also manager of Men’s clothing, and was always perfectly, flawlessly, immaculately dressed.  He had a voice like a foghorn and never seemed to realize that he was no longer a Marine General and we were not his troops. (“JONES!”, he’d bellow at me in front of fellow employees, customers, and whoever else was around, “if yew wud just apply your wuthless GD ass, you might make something of your m*****rf*****g stupid seff!”  It sounds harsh, but he wanted me to be the very best I could be; he strove for excellence himself and demanded that we do the same; we were the better for it).  In short, though, his cussing would make a hardened Marine blush.  He did it at the top of his (considerable) lungs.

So I paged Mr. Jones (our PBX operator, Sallie, who also paged people, was a 60 year old alcoholic Texas “gal” who had smoked waaay too many Marlboros, had her bouffant blonde hairdo piled up on top of her head (of course), and wore tiny, spikey high-heeled shoes, miniskirts, huge jewelry, huge glasses, and enough makeup to put a clown in the circus to shame; I believe she single-handedly kept our Elizabeth Arden boutique in business.  We loved her, too.  She would NOT put up with Mr. Jones’ crap, she gave as good as she got.  This made us love her all the more; she and Mr. Jones had worked together and carried on civilized warfare for years).  “Mistuh AAAAAYYY BEEEEE JONES, puh-leeze” she’d drawl out over the storewide intercom.  (He’d bray, “Whut the GD Hell do you want?” into the phone in response).  If she had to page him more than once (which was every time; he ignored her on purpose…), the more times she had to page, the more drawn out the page would be.  “Mistuh AAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYY BBBBEEEEEEEEEEEEE *JONES*, PUH-LEEEEEZE!”

(You’d be paged, then go to the nearest phone and hit something like *8 to be connected to the page.  I tried NEVER to be paged; you really didn’t want that happening…because if it did, Mr. Jones would come barrelling out of the men’s department, cigar blazing, to see why you were not at your post and had to be paged.)

So there I was, standing there with the customer with the 8 year old tin of rattlesnake meat at one register, the one in Gourmet.  Mr. Jones walked up to the neighboring register, in Notions, and hit *8.  I could *hear* him both on the phone AND verbally across the 20 feet of open air that separated us. 

“Ah, Mr. Jones, this is Nick at the Gourmet register; I have a gentleman here who wants to return an 8 year old tin of rattlesnake meat; what should I tell him?”

Mr. Jones (in a voice they could hear at Camp Pendleton, 1,000 miles away): “YOU TELL THAT MFSOB IF HE’S GOT ENOUGH GD GALL TO BRING IT BACK, I’VE GOT ENOUGH GD GALL TO TAKE IT BACK!!!!!”  Of course the customer HEARD every word, as A. B. had intended. He turned bright red, and I refunded his money. ;-)

I thought A. B. was wonderful.

(He had a heart attack and died---too many cigars; too much bourbon; too many blueberry muffins from the snack bar downstairs; they were fantastic, handmade every morning on-site, dripping with butter and crusted with confectioners sugar.  Management closed the entire store chain in his honour, and the funeral procession was miles long.  They took out a full-page ad in the Light, which I still have, honouring him.  I still remember him very fondly.  He was a great guy).


More Joske’s in the next installment, including memories from some of my friends.